Take a moment to feel for that large urban subculture of unfortunates whose frenetic lives are determined by the devices they carry—cellphone, pager, hand-held organizer, wireless e-mail gizmo. But these slaves to technology don’t want your pity—just a little less weight. Their holy grail is the one gadget that Does It All. Until recently, the few attempts turned out to be too bulky, too kludgy. Now, competing products from two companies with track records of innovation have given new hope to thousands of mobile business folk.
One is by now an old familiar. The BlackBerry hand-held, made by Research In Motion Ltd. of Waterloo, Ont., has been upgraded to include phone service. The new BlackBerry 5810 will allow you to get instant e-mail and text messages, check your scheduler, browse the Internet (by June)—and make phone calls. But before you toss out your cellphone, take note: receiving calls can be a bit tricky— you have to plug in the earphone-andmike headset before you talk. There is an “answer-and-hold” feature to give you time, notes RIM’s vice-president for brand management, Mark Guibert, but he allows: “There is no question our focus for the device is to offer the best wireless e-mail and data in the market.”
Arriving with much more hype is the Handspring Treo 180, made by the key people behind the original PalmPilot, who then split off to sell the competing Handspring Visor. The Treo’s sleek, fliptop design and wealth of features have already made it a hit in Europe. When fully enabled, it is a regular cellphone (with keypad appearing on screen) and an organizer, and can handle e-mail, Internet browsing and text messaging. There’s even a speakerphone. Like the Visor, the Treo incorporates the dominant Palm operating system lor handheld organizers, with its vast array of downloadable extras. But for the Treo, astonishingly, Handspring has all but abandoned the famed Graffiti handwriting system, in which Palm owners use a stylus to input data.
Instead, the mainline model features a thumb keyboard similar to—surprise, surprise—the BlackBerry’s. The design-
ers, says Greg Woock, Handspring’s vicepresident of sales for North America, found a keyboard was preferable for longer messages. The unit, though, still has a stylus for menus, and officials say there is downloadable software available that will allow Graffiti use in some modes. Users can also simply touch the screen for commands, or use a BlackBerry-like jog button to navigate. The flip-top cover was employed, says Woock, because the designers found that if you add a phone to a conventional organizer, “you get your face juice all over it.”
Both the Treo and the BlackBerry sell for $749 through Rogers AT&T Wireless, which has led its competitors in installing the upgraded network, known as GSM/GPRS, needed for high-speed text features. But Treo users will have to wait until late summer for Handspring to deliver the necessary software for e-mail and Internet. Something to look forward to at the cottage.
Handspring 180 Phone: Yes Speakerphone: Yes Organizer: Palm operating system Wireless e-mail: Available late summer Internet browsing: Available late summer Text messaging: Yes Computer sync: Yes Info ‘beaming’: Yes Memory: 16 MB Weight: 153 g Price: $749
Phone: Yes, using headset
Speakerphone: No Organizer: BlackBerry, using Java system for mobile devices Wireless e-mail: Yes Internet browsing:
Due in June Text messaging: Yes Computer sync: Yes Info ‘beaming’: No Memory: 8 MB Weight: 139 g Price: $749
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